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- 10/07/17--14:35: _One person in custo...
- 10/08/17--12:36: _Teen dead in East Y...
- 10/07/17--03:00: _Rev. Jeff Rock has ...
- 10/08/17--12:42: _Federal costs to fi...
- 10/08/17--06:12: _White nationalist R...
- 10/08/17--11:35: _Mike Pence leaves 4...
- 10/08/17--05:41: _Donald Trump defend...
- 10/08/17--17:28: _‘Cruel, inhuman, an...
- 10/08/17--11:53: _Alex Trebek can’t w...
- 10/08/17--16:53: _Dove sparks backlas...
- 10/09/17--04:49: _Man shot dead in Et...
- 10/08/17--12:40: _Syrian refugees lef...
- 10/09/17--04:00: _Leamington is at th...
- 10/08/17--18:32: _North Korea’s Kim J...
- 10/08/17--17:19: _Trump demands borde...
- 10/09/17--08:00: _Renowned recipe wri...
- 10/09/17--06:28: _Dallas Cowboys owne...
- 10/09/17--10:33: _Google uncovers Rus...
- 10/09/17--10:39: _Two murder suspects...
- 10/09/17--10:24: _‘Puzzling’ Toronto ...
- 10/08/17--12:36: Teen dead in East York stabbing
- He said, again, that the Coast Guard “saved 16,000 lives” — 16,000 lives,” he emphasized — during the response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas. The Coast Guard says it conducted 11,022 rescues.
- He said, again, that the U.S. is “the highest-taxed nation in the world.” It is below-average for developed countries.
- He said, again, that “everybody was shocked” by the 3.1 per cent economic growth in the second quarter of this year. Several prominent analysts predicted such growth.
- And he said, again, that Daesh, also known as the Islamic State, was created in the “vacuum” left in Iraq when former U.S. president Barack Obama presided over a withdrawal of troops in 2011. The group, which has origins back to 1999, adopted the name Islamic State in 2006, more than two years before Obama took office.
- 10/08/17--11:53: Alex Trebek can’t wait for rogue Jeopardy winner to lose
- 10/08/17--16:53: Dove sparks backlash with ad slammed as ‘offensive’
- 10/08/17--12:40: Syrian refugees left homeless after fire destroys Mississauga home
- 10/08/17--17:19: Trump demands border wall funds, immigration changes
- 10/09/17--10:39: Two murder suspects in Etobicoke shooting turn themselves in
One person is in custody and a man and two children, a boy and a girl, have been rushed to hospitals following an assault in the Black Creek area Saturday afternoon.
Police said the assault happened near Jane St. and Steeles Ave., just after 3 p.m. Saturday. They arrived on the scene and found the two children and a man in his 40s with serious injuries.
The two children were taken to Sick Kids Hospital in serious condition and the man was rushed to Sunnybrook Hospital in life-threatening condition, according to Toronto police and EMS.
Const. David Hopkinson said that one person has been taken into custody but has not been charged. Media reports indicated the person in custody was a male.
A witness who spoke to CP24 at the scene said the two children were bleeding from their heads when they approached her and asked her to call 911. She said the boy told her he was eight-years-old and that his sister was six.
Police are still investigating at the scene of the assault and have cordoned off an apartment in a building at 5000 Jane St.
One person in custody after man and two children seriously injured in assault One person in custody after man and two children seriously injured in assault
A teenager has died and another is in serious condition after being stabbed in an East York park.
Toronto police were called to the playground area of Stan Wadlow Park near Cosburn and Woodbine Aves. just before 9 p.m. Saturday after a stabbing was reported. There they found two teenage male victims in the playground area, one with no vital signs, the other with serious injuries.
Paramedics rushed the two victims to hospital, where one died from his injuries. Police said both were in their late teens.
Const. David Hopkinson said the two teenage victims were confronted by a group, then both were stabbed.
Three people have been arrested in relation to the stabbing. Police are still investigating.
Teen dead in East York stabbing
Rev. Jeff Rock is a self-professed geek who’s as likely to quotefromSpider-Manas he is chapter and verse.
“With great power comes great responsibility,” says Rock, 33, talking about his new role as the head of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto.
The superhero citation may not have the gravitas associated with church services. But perhaps that’s fitting at a church known for its advocacy, inclusion and as the site where two marriages in 2001 would later be recognized as the first legal same-sex unions in the world.
Rock — who arrived in Toronto a week ago to start a four-month handover from long-serving senior pastor Brent Hawkes — is exactly what the church was looking for.
He was the unanimous choice of the church’s three-person search committee, who worked for two years to find the right person to replace Hawkes.
On Sunday, he will preside over all three of the church’s services, preaching to a total of about 600 congregants. That’s triple the number on a typical Sunday in Red Deer, Alta., where he had been the head of the Gaetz Memorial United Church for six years.
He’s nervous. But as a friend once told him, “If you’re not nervous to preach on a Sunday, you shouldn’t be doing it,” says Rock, standing in the church on a residential street in Riverdale this past week, on his third day of work. “You’re getting up to bare your soul in front of hundreds of people.”
Rock will be talking about thankfulness, borrowing some passages from the Old Testament.
But on a given day, he’s just as likely to preach about potlucks. That’s what he did when he visited MCC in July and talked about the relationship between Jesus’s ministry and food: the wedding banquet at Cana, when he turned water into wine, and the Last Supper, the basis for Holy Communion.
“Jesus literally ate his way through the gospels,” Rock told the congregation.
Later that day, 98 per cent of church members elected him as their new leader to replace Hawkes, 67, seen by many as an icon.
Rock’s selection came after a period of turmoil. Hawkes was tried in November, for the alleged sexual assault of a 16-year-old male in the mid-1970s. He was acquitted in January.
In the intervening months, the church organized meetings with clergy and church members, for people to air their concerns and be reassured and supported.
“These listening circles in fact provided a window for us to see the depth of love and commitment people had to MCC Toronto that would endure, whatever the outcome of the trial,” says Lori Boyce, who is co-chair of MCC’s board of directors. The congregation overwhelmingly backed the senior pastor, she says.
Finding his replacement was considered by board members as the most pivotal decision since MCC decided to pursue equal marriage rights in 2000.
“The things that we have done here — one of the forces behind fighting for spousal benefits, and the right not to be discriminated against because we’re gay and lesbian, let alone the right to marry — all of that momentum that we created here in Canada has cascaded around the world,” says Boyce, who was also on the search committee. “And it has changed public perception and human rights elsewhere as well.”
Hawkes has not only led the church for 40 years, he is its CEO, responsible for programming and staff, all part of a $1.2-million annual budget that is approved by the board. What excited the search committee was that Rock knew all of that and still wanted the job.
“I certainly had my eye on MCC Toronto,” says the Sudbury native, who was looking to relocate to Ontario so he could be closer to his family.
When the votes were tallied, and Rock was chosen, the church borrowed from a papal tradition to herald its momentous decision. Pink smoke billowed from the chimney.
Rock grew up in a middle-class Sudbury neighbourhood with wide lots and brick and siding homes built in the ’60s.
He says his existence was so typically Canadian, it was “really quite atypical when you stop and think about it. Hockey practice on Saturdays, church on Sundays, a cat, a dog, an older brother, a two-car garage.” He quit hockey at 15, a “lousy” player despite being the fastest on the ice, he says.
Summer weekends were spent at the family cottage on Manitoulin Island. In winter, Rock skied cross-country with his parents and his brother, Christopher. Throughout his life, the family attended a church that locals call St. Peter’s on the Rock.
“We had a wonderful community in the United Church,” says his mother, Carolyn Lane-Rock, who calls her family’s views “God-loving” and not “God-fearing.”
Rock skipped Grade 8 and went straight to Sudbury Secondary, a downtown high school, where he enrolled in the theatre program. He describes the school — where his mother was teaching — as “a little rough around the edges,” but also diverse enough in terms of race, religion and sexual and gender diversity to make him feel comfortable.
There, he broke up with his girlfriend and they both came out at the same time. But while he felt acceptance, especially in the church and in his notion of God, his ex-girlfriend didn’t have the same support and she took her own life, he says.
“What got me through those teenage angsty years was having heard from the pulpit that I was a beloved child of God, no matter who I was or where I had come from,” says Rock. “So for me as a teenager, the church was a real bedrock.
“My friend who had died likely didn’t feel that unconditional love,” he says. “I wish I would have had the opportunity to share that with her.”
When Rock was in Grade 10, his mother left Sudbury Secondary and became a principal at another school. (His father was a chemist, in industrial sales for Imperial Oil.) She says she didn’t know her son was gay until long after he left home.
“I was out in high school, and my teachers all knew I was gay,” says Rock. “And my teachers were all my mom’s best friends. But we never had that sit-down conversation until I was probably 24.
“Coming out to your parents is always the toughest thing.”
After high school, Rock considered going into theatre, but was also strong in science. He chose McGill for microbiology and immunology, hoping it would lead to AIDS research.
On the weekend he was graduating from McGill, and his parents were visiting, he decided to become a minister.
He says a lot of his friends were applying to law school or med school, and he thought, “Good Lord, what am I going to do with my life?”
“I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world and work with people and do the work of social justice and build inclusive communities,” says Rock. “And to me that’s what being a minister is.”
It wasn’t that much of a surprise to his mother, who says theatre taught him how to be a preacher, and bartending his way through university taught him compassion. His parents also set an example as people of conscience. “Both his dad and I have always fought for the underdog,” says Lane-Rock.
Rock’s father, Bill, was a devout Catholic who considered the priesthood after high school, but his view on celibacy clashed with the church.
In the ’60s, when studying at Loyola College in Montreal, he helped smuggle U.S. draft dodgers into Canada. He eventually split with the church over the issue of birth control.
Now 71, he has Alzheimer’s and lives in a nursing home on Manitoulin Island.
Lane-Rock taught family studies and co-op at Sudbury Secondary, a school with a large Indigenous population, for 17 years. “We pulled a lot of kids through that didn’t have much of a home life,” she says. “The theatre school (at Sudbury Secondary) was fabulous for saving kids.”
She was also at N’Swakamok, an alternative school for Indigenous kids that was part of Sudbury Secondary, before she left to become a principal at Manitoulin Secondary School.
The entire family volunteered with St. Peter’s Out of the Cold dinners at a neighbouring church, and the kids would come to the N’Swakamok charity bazaars.
“Growing up in a church community, the issues of poverty and homelessness and a whole myriad of social justice issues were raised in my consciousness,” says Rock.
After his McGill science degree, he went back to the Montreal university, which has several seminaries including one for the United Church, to get a bachelor in theology.
During a year-long break from school, Rock was a hospital chaplain at Princess Margaret in Toronto, seeing cancer patients each day, many of whom were dying. For six months, he struggled with the question that many patients asked him — why do bad things happen to good people?
About halfway through the year, he realized he didn’t have the answer but could help patients through a difficult time.
“It’s my steadfast belief that God is with us through the good, the bad and the downright ugly.”
He received his Master of Divinity from the Montreal School of Theology.
After he graduated he applied to become a minister at Gaetz United, a job he says was far above his qualifications would typically have gone to someone with 30 years’ experience. But the Alberta church, seeking a new direction, was open to hiring someone fresh out of the seminary, he says.
Rock says he’d already fallen in love with the west after an internship in Edmonton at McClure United Church.
In Red Deer, he sat on numerous boards, including the Remembering the Children Society for six years. The society organized a memorial stone for four unmarked graves of youth, aged 13 and 14, who died during the Spanish flu epidemic in the Red Deer Indian Industrial School, an overcrowded residential school with poor sanitation. Last month, Rock attended the unveiling of the memorial at the Red Deer Cemetery.
During the 2015 federal election, Rock took a one-month leave to run as the Liberal candidate in the riding of Red Deer-Lacombe. He finished second, and is no longer a member of the party.
He says in Red Deer, he never experienced homophobia, but there was some racism.
“There are certainly a few rotten apples … in Red Deer, but I’m hell-bent and determined that a couple of bad apples won’t ruin the bushel.”
“I’m tired,” says Brent Hawkes. “It’s been 40 years and I’m tired.”
Hawkes is sitting in a café on Church St., his papers and daily agenda strewn in front of him, his phone practically gyrating off the table, buzzing with the near-continuous arrival of texts and emails.
“New ideas come up now, and my default position is to say, I can’t take on this. Or we can’t do that,” says Hawkes. “The church needs a can-do, let’s-go-at-it energy and approach. And I think (Jeff Rock will) bring that.”
The church was founded in 1973 in Toronto as a branch of an LGBTQ-friendly Christian church started by Troy Perry in California in 1968. Perry, a Pentecostal minister, was kicked out of his church because of his sexuality. He founded the Metropolitan Community Church in Los Angeles for gays and lesbians with a focus on inclusion, spirituality, community and social justice.
People in Toronto heard about it and wrote a letter to the L.A. branch, asking for a pastor in Toronto. Rev. Bob Wolfe arrived in July 1973, and Hawkes took over four years later.
At first, services were held in backyards, church halls and chapels, until MCC purchased its first building on Gerrard St. W. They moved to the church on Simpson Ave. in 1991.
Under Hawkes, MCC has supported human rights initiatives such as adding sexual orientation protection to the province’s human rights code, and it was an intervener in a Supreme Court case that ended with the recognition of same-sex spouses under the Old Age Security Act. That case led to the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Charter of Rights.
Today, the church still advocates for human rights. It runs a refugee program to help individuals come to Canada from countries where people are persecuted for being gay. The TDSB operates the Pink Triangle High School, a refuge for LGBTQ students who have left mainstream education, in the church’s basement.
In more recent years, MCC has gone from being simply “the gay church” to one that is progressive, vibrant and the “conscience of the city.”
The music at services can range from gospel to show tunes. Some days, MCC may be hosting fall jazz vespers, a homecoming cabaret or even Lorraine Segato, the former lead singer of the Parachute Club. On others, the church may organize social justice movie nights, seder dinners, funeral planning seminars and yoga.
A quarter of the congregation is heterosexual.
As a progressive Christian church, the board actively tries to identify social justice issues and learn more about them.
“Our goal is to transform lives and through our words and actions, our community,” says board co-chair Lori Boyce. “Education, dialogue, action: they are all essential to our growth.”
After the Black Lives Matter protest at Pride two summers ago, a church member posted some anti-Black comments on Facebook that were viewed by a church deacon. Soon after, the church instituted a program called the “Healing Racism Initiative” to educate the congregation about race issues and to discover what it could do to fix systemic racism in the church. Meetings and workshops are held to educate others about racism, and the church is looking at its organizational structure to identify systemic problems.
The church thinks the program could be used as a model for other LGBTQ organizations.
Racism within the gay community “is a very real problem,” says Rock. It’s an issue the church hopes to tackle during his tenure. He has made a promise to stay for 10 years.
He acknowledges he’s a white male with privilege. But he says it’s “incumbent on people in positions of power to deconstruct the systems that give them that power.”
Rock doesn’t hold to the notion of God as a male figure with a beard sitting somewhere in the sky, but as a “deep inner voice of love that calls us to do our best.”
He says he always tells people that his “job as a minister isn’t to save souls. It’s to build community,” he says. “So my job is to help people learn and grow from each other.”
Hawkes will move on to the global stage, to start a charity that will tackle homophobia and counter the religious right.
“One of the issues that we see internationally, and in Canada and the U.S., too, is that quite often the people who are most vehement against gay/lesbian/trans equality are kind of the religious right,” says Boyce. “And so what’s kind of missing on the stage is another religious perspective, which Brent can offer with tremendous credibility.”
When Rock officially starts in February, Hawkes, the senior statesman, will step away from the church for six months.
When he comes back he’ll take a seat in a pew.
“You need to let him be his own person,” says Hawkes. “Because he’s going to make changes and he needs to make changes, because if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got,” he says. “And the church needs a shift.”
Hawkes says that although MCC has helped foster equality in law for LGBTQ people, there is still a lot more to be done to ensure “equality in practice.”
LGBTQ kids are still bullied in school, he says, and seniors who go into retirement homes have to go back in the closet. “The addiction rate in the gay community is three times the society at large. And depression is the number one health concern in the LGBTQ community in Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.”
For Rock, living up to the image of a man who has been a friend and mentor to so many will be hard. The inevitable comparisons to Hawkes, who has been the pastor for nearly the whole of the church’s existence, have already started.
Hawkes has been a presence in the church, but also in his downtown community, where he makes a point of wearing his collar and rainbow cross as a visible symbol of church leadership. Rock, who is single, has bought a townhouse condo near the village.
He hasn’t decided whether to wear a collar or not.
“Likely I will. I’m a little intimidated by the high profile of this position but know it’s important in building those connections.”
The transition at the church is as important for Hawkes as it is for Rock.
“For it to be successful, they have to stop comparing, stop looking over their shoulder at me,” says Hawkes. If they don’t, he says he can’t stay.
Rock knows his new job is going to be a challenge. “I have no illusions,” he says. “I’m terrified, to be honest. But this all feels so God-led.”
Rev. Jeff Rock has big pews to fill at Toronto's Metropolitan Community Church
OTTAWA—Federal lawyers have racked up a legal bill of more than $2.36 million fighting a group of women who allegedly were wrongly denied sickness benefits while they were on maternity leave.
The costs, revealed in an access to information request filed by The Canadian Press, show the Justice Department added about $300,000 to its bill between early 2016 and last June to fight a case the Liberals once vowed to drop.
That brings the total federal bill on the case to more than $2.5 million when factoring in previously released costs from a second department involved in the litigation.
Jennifer McCrea, the woman at the centre of the case, and her lawyer wonder why the government can’t end their case when it settled with former Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr for $10.5 million and offered up to $750 million to victims of the ’60s Scoop, where Indigenous children were taken from their homes and placed with non-native families.
“It’s the only right thing to do and I believe in the strength of our case,” said lawyer Stephen Moreau.
“I have yet to see a reason why they wouldn’t come through on this promise, other than the fact that they’re taking a long time. That’s the only thing that gives me some pause.”
McCrea said she hasn’t given up hope the Liberals will settle, as the party promised at the end of the 2015 election, but admits it may finally mean getting their day in court.
“I’m upset that this is taking so long,” said Moreau, who has been interviewed extensively by the Star.
“I’m in too deep and too long to give up on it, so absolutely we intend to continue the fight. It’s just very slow and painful.”
It was two years ago, just a week before the federal election, that the NDP and Liberals vowed to immediately drop opposition to the case if either became government.
Instead, Moreau said, the Liberals, like the previous Conservative government, continue to fight every element of the case.
McCrea has been brushed off by ministers and local MPs, with all saying they couldn’t comment because the matter was before courts.
“That’s all that they’ll tell me,” McCrea said.
A spokesperson for Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case because it is in Federal Court.
“The minister is sympathetic to the challenges faced by women who were diagnosed with cancer while receiving parental benefits. EI claimants who fall ill or are injured during their parental benefits claim are now able to access sickness benefits,” Mathieu Filion said.
Parliament decided in 2002 to allow those who were diagnosed with cancer, for instance, to access 15 extra weeks of employment insurance payments in addition to a year’s worth of maternity leave benefits.
McCrea was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2011, while she was on maternity leave with her youngest son, Logan, who was eight months old at the time.
She had a double mastectomy in August 2011 and was deemed cancer-free shortly afterwards.
But she was denied sickness benefits. Her claim alleges thousands of others were also denied between 2002 and 2013 — when the Tories further clarified the law — although the exact number of women affected isn’t clear because it would require searching through millions of paper EI files.
Federal lawyers are now looking to limit the potential number of additional women who may be part of the $450-million class-action lawsuit in the latest procedural wrangling. A hearing about whether to expand the definition of who is part of the class action is scheduled for early January.
Federal costs to fight lawsuit from moms denied sickness benefits tops $2.5 million
Richard Spencer, who in August led white nationalists and white supremacists in a torchlight march across the University of Virginia campus that touched off a weekend of deadly clashes, returned Saturday night to Charlottesville.
Spencer, a white nationalist, posted video on social media of followers carrying torches to the statue of Robert E. Lee, which the city has sought to remove.
The march coincided with the university’s celebration of its bicentennial.
“It was a planned flash mob,” Spencer said in an interview Saturday night. “It was a great success. We’ve been planning this for a long time.”
“We wanted to prove that we came in peace in May, we came in peace in August, and we come again in peace,” he said.
Their message, he said, is that, “Our identity matters. We are not going to stand by and allow people to tear down these symbols of our history and our people — and we’re going to do this again.”
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer sent a tweet denouncing the march: “Another despicable visit by neo-Nazi cowards. You’re not welcome here! Go home! Meantime we’re looking at all our legal options. Stay tuned.”
Wes Gobar, the leader of the U-Va. Black Student Alliance, who was trying to finish a paper for class when he learned of the rally, said it was difficult balancing studies while bracing for the next burst of hatred that might seize Charlottesville. On Saturday, some members of his group knelt in protest during the National Anthem and the school’s Good Old Song.
Spencer, a U-Va. graduate, said he was unaware that the school was marking its bicentennial. They have been planning this “for a long time.”
WVIR-TV reported that Spencer and his group arrived at Emancipation Park about 7:45 p.m., and departed 15 minutes later.
The video Spencer posted show him and his crowd chanting, “You will not replace us”
They promised to keep returning to Charlottesville, which they argued had become symbolic of their right to speak and also had come to symbolize the tearing down of symbols of the nation’s history.
“You will not erase us.”
“We are about our heritage. Not just us Virginians. Not just as Southerners. But as white people ... we’ll take a stand.
“You’ll have to get used to us.
“We’re going to come back again and again and again.”
Then they began singing about Dixie.
Officials with the Charlottesville police department did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday night.
Spokesmen for the University of Virginia did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The August march at U-Va. — with people chanting “Jews will not replace us!” — touched off violence between demonstrators and counterprotesters the next day. A man drove into a crowd, killing one woman and injuring others, and two police officers who were monitoring the protests died when their helicopter crashed.
In the days that followed, several public universities denied Spencer a platform.
Last week, the University of Florida reluctantly agreed it would allow Spencer to speak later this month, saying it had no choice because as a state institution, it must all expression of all viewpoints.
The university, in Gainesville, Florida, is charging the National Policy Institute, which Spencer leads, $10,000 (U.S.) to rent a campus facility and to provide security inside the university’s performing arts centre.
White nationalist Richard Spencer and supporters return to Charlottesville for 'planned flash mob'
INDIANAPOLIS—Vice-President Mike Pence has left the 49ers-Colts game after about a dozen San Francisco players took a knee during the national anthem, the latest move by President Donald Trump’s administration to clash with NFL players over patriotism and public demonstrations.
The former Indiana governor flew in so he could watch Peyton Manning’s jersey retirement ceremony on Sunday. But Pence didn’t stick around long.
Right around kickoff, Pence wrote on Twitter: “I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.”
The White House also issued a statement from Pence, in which he says Americans should rally around the flag. Pence said: “I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem.”
Trump has called on NFL owners to fire players who don’t stand for the anthem and urged fans to boycott games in a series of tweets after he first criticized the demonstrations during a Sept. 22 rally in Alabama. White House officials have viewed it as a winning issue for the president, who has sought to remain closely connected to his working-class base of Midwestern voters who helped elect him.
After Pence’s walkout, Trump tweeted: “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled, disrespecting our country. I am proud of him and @SecondLady Karen.” The tweet raised the question of whether Pence’s actions had been planned in advance.
San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid said Pence’s departure looked like “a PR stunt.”
“He knew our team has had the most players protest, he knew that we were probably going to do it again,” Reid said. “This is what systemic oppression looks like: man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple things out and leaves the game in an attempt to thwart our efforts.”
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy declined to comment on Pence’s walkout. The Colts also had no comment, and after their 26-23 overtime victory, Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano steered clear of the issue.
“No,” Pagano said when asked if he had any reaction to what Pence did.
On Sunday night, Dallas owner Jerry Jones said the NFL can’t leave the impression that it tolerates players disrespecting the flag and that any of his Cowboys making such displays won’t play.
Responding to a question about Pence leaving the game in Indianapolis, Jones said after the Cowboys’ 35-31 home loss to Green Bay that the league can’t “in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag.” Of his own players, the Hall of Famer said, “If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won’t play. Period.”
The Cowboys knelt arm-in-arm before the national anthem when they played at Arizona two weeks ago. Players, coaches and others, including Jones and his family, were among those in the line. All of them stood during the anthem, with arms still locked.
The NFL players’ union said in a statement Sunday night that discussions about issues by the league’s players should not be stifled.
“NFL players are union members and part of the labour movement that has woven the fabric of America for generations,” the NFLPA’s statement read. “Our men and their families are also conscientious Americans who continue to be forces for good through our communities and some have decided to use their platform to peacefully raise awareness to issues that deserve attention. It is a source of enormous pride that some of the best conversations about these issues have taken place in our locker rooms in a respectful, civil and thoughtful way that should serve as a model for how all of us can communicate with each other.
“We should not stifle these discussions and cannot allow our rights to become subservient to the very opinions our Constitution protects. That is what makes us the land of the free and home of the brave.”
Colts players stood in unison, locking arms but standing throughout the anthem.
But the 49ers have been among the most visible protesters in the league. Last year, former quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the movement to kneel or sit during the anthem, and Reid and other teammates backed him up on and off the field.
Retired announcer Brent Musburger joined the fray on Twitter on Sunday night.
“Yo #49ers Since you instigated protest, 2 wins and 19 losses. How about taking your next knee in the other team’s end zone?” Musburger posted.
Pence flew in Saturday after a statue of Manning was unveiled, an event attended by a number of luminaries including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The vice-president had spent most of Saturday honouring victims of the Las Vegas shooting before returning to his home state.
Aides to the vice-president did not respond to questions on whether he had planned to make the public walkout in the game against the 49ers, who have regularly held the demonstrations. Pence’s trip to Las Vegas and Indianapolis was announced on Friday.
After leaving the game, Pence departed Indianapolis for a three-day trip to California that includes three fundraisers and an event on the president’s push for a tax overhaul.
Pence, who attended last year’s Super Bowl, is a noted sports fan and it was the second major event he’s attended in his home state since taking office in January. He also attended May’s Indianapolis 500, a family tradition.
Mike Pence leaves 49ers-Colts game after players take a knee during national anthem
WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump lashed out at the “fake” journalists who criticized him for tossing rolls of paper towel to Puerto Rican hurricane victims.
The paper towels, he said, were beautiful. And soft.
“They had these beautiful, soft towels. Very good towels,” Trump said in a conversation that aired Sunday on Christian television network Trinity Broadcasting. “And I came in and there was a crowd of a lot of people. And they were screaming and they were loving everything. I was having fun, they were having fun. They said, ‘Throw ’em to me! Throw ’em to me, Mr. President!’”
“So next day they said, ‘Oh it was so disrespectful to the people.’ It was just a made-up thing. And also when I walked in, the cheering was incredible,” he said.
Trump’s impassioned defence of his Tuesday towel-tossing, an act that insulted many Puerto Ricans, came during a quasi-interview with an ardent supporter and television host Mike Huckabee, the father of his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Huckabee lobbed Trump questions that softball players would be insulted to hear called softballs. His first question: “Tell me, how good is your press secretary?”
But Trump still made a number of noteworthy, unusual and inaccurate statements in response.
1. He attacked San Juan’s mayor again
When Trump visited Puerto Rico on Tuesday, he took a break from his extraordinary personal criticism of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who has been sharply critical of the federal response to Hurricane Maria.
Trump resumed his onslaught in speaking with Mike Huckabee, saying Cruz “really did not do a very good job — in fact, did a very poor job.”
“And she was the lone voice (of criticism) that we saw,” he said, ignoring the vociferous criticism from thousands of other Puerto Ricans. “And of course that’s the only voice the media wanted to talk to. And she’s running for governor. Big surprise.”
He continued: “But she’s not a capable person. And my people were telling me that to start off with.”
2. He took credit for inventing the word ‘fake’
Trump, as he so often does, called the media “fake.” And then he, it seemed, took credit for coining the word “fake.”
“I think one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with is ‘fake.’ I guess other people have used it, perhaps, over the years, but I’ve never noticed it,” he said.
Trump would not have even been correct if he meant to refer specifically to the phrase “fake news.”
3. He said Las Vegas mass murderer Stephen Paddock was “probably smart”
Trump has been calling Paddock “sick” and “demented.” This time, he added a descriptor rarely heard from presidents talking about the perpetrators of mass slaughters.
While praising police officers for their response to the shooting, Trump noted Paddock had set up cameras so he could observe officers as they tried to apprehend him.
“This was a sick person — but probably smart,” Trump said.
4. He accused Iran of working with North Korea
Trump offered his regular criticism of Iran, saying Iran was violating the “spirit” of their nuclear agreement and “causing trouble” in the Middle East. But he added a new set of accusations this time.
“I believe they’re funding North Korea,” he said. “I believe they’re trading with North Korea. I believe they’re doing things with North Korea that is totally inappropriate. And that doesn’t pertain to the deal — but in my opinion it does. It’s called the spirit of a deal.”
He did not provide evidence.
5. He offered a bizarre explanation for his latest favourite health-care plan
The Republican health-care bill that failed in late September, known as Graham-Cassidy, would have sent states money and instructed them to design their own health systems.
Trump said the downward transfer of power is a good idea because it would allow him to stop personally taking care of people’s health problems.
“I want to focus on North Korea. I want to focus on Iran. I want to focus on other things. I don’t want to focus on fixing somebody’s back. Or their knee. Or something. Let the states do that,” he said.
Perhaps he meant he wanted to be free of having to deal with health policy at all, but the Republican bill would not come close to ending the federal role in the system.
6. He said his post-hurricane consoling makes him feel good
Huckabee asked Trump how he has taken to the role of post-tragedy consoler of the nation. Trump said he has mixed feelings.
“In one sense, you hate to see it,” he said. “In another sense, you feel you can do a good job. You’re really helping people. So it makes you feel good.”
7. He took another step away from his campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
Trump already postponed the controversial embassy move he had once promised to make on the first day of his presidency. This time, he explained why he’s dallying: he wants to try to make peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“I want to give that a shot before I even think about moving the embassy to Jerusalem,” he said.
Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, sounded much more convinced a move was coming during an interview on the same network earlier in the week, saying, “The embassy will move. It’s not if, but when.”
8. He backed off his claim that his tax plan doesn’t help the rich
In September, Trump falsely claimed that his plan for tax cuts, which would predominantly help rich people, would not help the rich at all. His language was significantly different this time.
He said the focus of tax reform was the middle class. But he did not deny that rich people would get help too.
“This is not a tax (cut) for the rich. Now, everybody’s going to benefit,” he said.
9. He made false claims
It is not a Trump interview without some wrongness.
Donald Trump defends paper towels in Puerto Rico, says Las Vegas shooter was ‘probably smart’
The UN has been asked to push Ottawa to establish an independent body to oversee the Canada Border Service Agency’s handling of immigration detainees.
A group of prominent human and civil rights organizations has filed a joint submission to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on the eve of its periodic review of Canada’s domestic human rights conditions and records. The review, scheduled for early 2018, is conducted once every four years.
Despite progress made by the federal government in the past year in addressing some systemic issues with the detention system, the group said its treatment of immigration detainees, including children and individuals with mental health issues, continues to violate binding international law.
“In many cases, this treatment constitutes arbitrary detention, as well as cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment,” they said in their 18-page submission to the council on Thursday.
“There is no legislatively prescribed limit to the length of detention, and as such, detainees have no way to ascertain how long they will spend in detention. A needlessly punitive culture persists within the immigration detention system, and it is enabled by a series of systemic issues that must be addressed through legislative, regulatory, and policy amendments.”
Last year Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced that $138 million would be invested to “enhance alternatives to detention” and rebuild immigration holding facilities, after a series of deaths of detainees, including Francisco Javier Romero Astorga, a Chilean, at Maplehurst; Melkioro Gahungu, a Burundian, at Toronto East; and an unnamed 24-year-old man in Edmonton.
Earlier this year, a Star investigative series also documented how hundreds of migrants were trapped in lengthy detention in maximum security facilities.
The number of people in detention has dropped to 6,251 last year from 8,739 in 2012, with the number of children in detention falling to 162 from 232. The federal government has also restored heath-care coverage for refugees and provided new funding to improve mental and medical health services for immigration detainees.
“Canada’s renewed efforts to become a global leader as a multicultural safe haven for refugees and migrants should be applauded, but it needs to move quickly to address the serious human rights violations of some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Samer Muscati, director of the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program, which led the joint submission to the UN.
“It’s time that Canada lives up to its human rights reputation by ending the needless detention of children and migrants with mental health conditions when alternatives already exist.”
While the criminal justice system has built-in mechanisms to safeguard inmates’ rights and treatment, Muscati said the immigration detention system has a much lower bar and individuals are detained for being flight risks, dangers to the public or having an undetermined identity.
“The legislative scheme is . . . not required by law to consider individuals’ mental health in decisions to detain individuals or continue their detention,” said the group submission.
“There is no effective and transparent monitoring of the conditions of confinement for detainees held in provincial jails, as independent monitors are often barred access to these facilities and their reports are not published.”
Although an independent tribunal conducts regular reviews of the continued detention, detainees’ mental health issues are seen as a cause for flight risk and danger to the public rather than a factor favouring release.
“The frequency of the detention review hearings is supposed to be a safeguard against indefinite detention, (but) with each decision to continue detention, it becomes more difficult to secure release,” said the report.
“Instead of reviewing previous decisions for potential mistakes, adjudicators take the findings of previous decisions at face value and only look for ‘clear and compelling reasons’ to depart from previous decisions.”
Border officials justify transferring immigration detainees from immigration detention centres to provincial jails for better access to mental health support, but the report said these inmates hardly receive any help.
“Detention causes psychological illness, trauma, depression, anxiety, aggression, and other physical, emotional and psychological consequences,” the report said.
“Uncertainty about the end date of detention is one of the most stressful aspects of the system, especially for those who cannot be removed from Canada due to legal or practical reasons that are out of their control.”
As a first step, the group said Canada should limit detention to 90 days and form an independent body or appoint an ombudsperson — akin to the federal Office of the Correctional Investigator — to oversee and investigate complaints against the border agency.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
‘Cruel, inhuman, and degrading’: Canada blasted for ‘needlessly punitive’ immigration detention system
The show:Jeopardy, October 6, 2017 (Yes TV)
The moment: The ninth win
Alex Trebek does not like nine-time winner Austin Rogers, a New York City bartender who, as of Friday, had racked up $332,400 U.S. Austin, 38, sports unbrushed, bushy hair and natty jacket/shirt/tie combos. He mugs during his intros. He waves his hands. He bets eccentric amounts that he plucks out of the air.
When Trebek tries to josh about Rogers — “He’s got hair, he’s got chutzpah, and he’s got broad-based knowledge” — he sounds defeated. When he says, “Austin has a bit of the showman in him,” what he means is, “Austin, go away.”
Mostly Trebek hates how Rogers brushes off his (temporary) losses: When Rogers bets his whole wad ($4600) on a Daily Double, loses, then shrugs and says, “All right, whatever,” the irk in Trebek’s voice is palpable.
Are you onto this guy? I happened to catch Rogers by accident on Friday, and saw immediately that he’s a thing: He comments on @austinonjeopardy, a Twitter account a fan created for him. Strangers gather at the Gaf Bar in Hell’s Kitchen, where he still works (the shows were taped in April), to watch. Many loathe him.
But no one so much as Trebek. Until 2003, Jeopardy limited contestants to five wins. Then they figured out that streaks lead to ratings. Trebek has always run the show like a manager of a restaurant that’s trying hard to be classy — “Hey, I’ll joke with you, but show me proper respect.” He clearly doesn’t enjoy humouring this rogue class clown who won’t play his serioso game.
Jeopardy airs on CTV and Yes TV. Johanna Schneller is a media connoisseur who zeroes in on pop-culture moments. She usually appears Monday through Thursday.
Alex Trebek can’t wait for rogue Jeopardy winner to lose
The Dove brand sheepishly admitted that it had “missed the mark” with a not-so-vaguely racist advertisement that has made it the latest target of consumer rage.
But many angry and befuddled Dove lovers spent the weekend wondering what mark Dove was trying to hit in the first place.
The ire-inducing advertisement — a static compilation of four photos — was released Saturday afternoon. The first frame shows a dark-skinned woman in what appears to be a bathroom, a bottle of Dove body wash in the lower right-hand corner of the picture.
In subsequent frames, the woman reaches down and lifts up her shirt (and apparently the rest of her skin/costume) to reveal a smiling white woman.
Offended Dove users erupted and the company quickly apologized. But the two-sentence Twitter note and a slightly longer message on Facebook left it unclear what exactly the ad was trying to convey.
Unilever, Dove’s parent company, did not respond to Washington Post requests for comment.
The vacuum of information was filled by people on social media who peppered the company with comments and rhetorical questions, none of them good.
Was Dove saying that inside every Black woman is a smiling red-headed white woman? Was Dove invoking the centuries-old stereotype that black is dirty and white is pure? Or that black skin can or should be cleansed away?
And perhaps the biggest question of all: Did Dove really believe that the ad would make more people of colour want to buy its products?
“What exactly were yall going for?,” one self-described Dove consumer said on the company’s Facebook page. “What was the mark . . . I mean anyone with eyes can see how offensive this is. Not one person on your staff objected to this? Wow. Will not be buying your products anymore.”
Others wondered whether the problem was a lack of diversity at Dove. They pointed to historical examples of racist ads about soap so good that it apparently washes the melanin right out of your skin.
The marketing conundrum is, of course, not limited to the 60-year-old maker of soaps and body washes.
Earlier this year, the German skin-care company Nivea was dinged for a deodorant ad that declared “White Is Purity.”
As the Post’s Amy B. Wang wrote, there was a loud outcry from consumers, who called the ad campaign “horrendous” and a “#prnightmare.” A white supremacist group even posted on the company’s Facebook page: “We enthusiastically support this new direction your company is taking. I’m glad we can all agree that #WhiteIsPurity.”
Still, this weekend’s predicament was a curious one for Dove, a beauty company that has a 13-year-old marketing campaign centred on rejecting standard, racially insular notions of beauty in its commercials.
On its website, Dove touts the “Real Beauty Pledge,” a vow to feature “real women of different ages, sizes, ethnicities, hair color, type or style.”
It recently paid Shonda Rhimes to make mini films celebrating the theme. The producer and screenwriter has created several TV shows that feature minority women as lead characters.
In May, Rhimes produced a short film for Dove about the woman who started the “Fat Girls Dance” group.
“It’s incredible to watch these ladies go from scared fat girls to, you know, completely amazing warrior fat girls,” Cathleen Meredith says in the video. “I think the entire model of what beauty is needs to be thrown completely out and we need to start defining what beauty is for ourselves.”
Dove’s marketing campaign has been criticized by people who believe that feminism and women’s empowerment shouldn’t be used as marketing tools to persuade people to buy shower foam.
As Time wrote in 2013, “Beauty companies like Dove and Pantene capitalize on feminist messages to hawk you products they’ve convinced you you need.”
The article went on to say:
“One could argue that messages of gender equality are important enough that it doesn’t matter if they precede ad copy for a shampoo company. But that line of thinking conveniently misses the point, particularly when it’s beauty companies who are using feminism to sell products.
“Brands like Dove and Pantene have made millions by preying on women’s insecurities and convincing them they need to buy products to meet societal standards of beauty: sure, you’re beautiful just the way you are, but use our products and you can be even more beautiful.”
The ethics of feminism-centered marketing campaigns aside, Saturday’s ad was not the first time Dove’s users felt that it had missed the mark.
In May, Dove released six limited-edition bottles of body wash in British markets — some squat and curvy, some tall and lean — that were meant to represent variations of the female form. It advertised the bottles using the phrase “beauty breaks the mould.”
As Jess Zimmerman wrote in the Post, most consumers found the bottles, well, dumb:
“Dove’s new packaging raises a number of questions: Do all the bottles have the same amount of product?” she wrote. “Are you supposed to buy the one that looks like you? Are you allowed to buy the ones that don’t look like you? Are we gearing up for a Divergent-style dystopia in which society is divided according to soap format?”
And Zimmerman expressed the same confusion that irate Dove users had this weekend.
“But the most important question is: What, exactly, is the point supposed to be?”
Dove sparks backlash with ad slammed as ‘offensive’
One man is dead and two others are injured following a shooting in Etobicoke Sunday night.
Toronto police said they responded to a call at around 11:40 p.m. near Islington Ave. and Dixon Rd. near Kingsview Village School.
When police arrived they found an unconscious man who was critically injured and two other men who had serious but non life-threatening injuries. All three men were rushed to hospital, but the unconscious man later died.
The three victims were in their 20s, paramedics said.
The homicide team has taken over the investigation.
Police said they wouldn’t release more information about the victims until their families had been notified.
Another man was shot to death in the area in broad daylight last week.
Abdulkadir Bihi, 29, was found with gunshot wounds in a car near Dixon Rd. and Islington Ave. in the early afternoon Thursday.
It is unknown whether the two shootings are related.
Man shot dead in Etobicoke days after fatal shooting in the same area
A Syrian family has been left homeless after fire swept through their Mississauga home and damaged eight other townhouses in the complex.
There is little left of unit 121 at 1560 Bloor St., the place that Khaled Alawad, his wife, Judy, and their three children — Odai, 11, Marina, 9, and Mera, 4 — have called home since they arrived in Canada in January 2016.
“I lost myself, I don’t know where to start,” he said, adding that all of his family’s documents and identification are gone.
Peel police are still investigating the fire, which happened early Saturday morning, Peel police Const. Bancroft White said.
Around 5 p.m. on Friday, Peel police responded to a 911 call at the same address. Alawad said he called after he was approached by a man who adamantly insisted that the bike outside of his house belonged to him.
“He said bad words about Syrian refugees, and he lifted something — I think a gun or knife. We went into the house because I was scared,” Alawad said.
Two friends came to his aid and helped Alawad hold the front door closed while the man tried to get in, but the intruder was “too strong” and broke the door, Alawad said.
Alawad called police and the man fled.
At around 2 a.m. the next day, while the rest of his family was sleeping, Alawad saw flames in the backyard. Once again, he called 911.
“I saw a light coming from the backyard, and I saw a big fire,” he said. “I picked up my children and family and brought them outside and yelled, ‘please help, help, fire!’ ”
He believes that his family was targeted.
It took firefighters almost five hours to put out the fire, said Alawad, and the family has “lost everything.”
Police said a 33-year-old man has been arrested in relation to the first incident and is facing charges of mischief over $5,000, uttering death threats, and assault with a weapon.
Police are not linking the arrest and the fire.
“The thing that I need to stress is that there is no evidence currently that connects the two incidents,” Const. White said.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all residents who are now rebuilding their lives as a result of this devastating fire,” Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in an email to the Star.
“Soon after the fire broke out, the Burnhamthorpe Community Centre was opened for residents to access washroom facilities and to serve as a rehab location.
“A MiWay articulated bus was on scene holding residents who could not return to their homes. Peel Social Services is working with displaced families to arrange living arrangements. The Red Cross, along with other community partners, continue to provide ongoing support in the form shelter and food and clothing vouchers.”
Alawad has created a GoFundMe page, stating that his family is new to Canada, and in need of support to rebuild. The goal is to raise $20,000.
While the family has house insurance, they said they are unable to speak to someone until after the Thanksgiving weekend, and will hear back on Tuesday morning.
In the meantime, they are staying with a friend, but the family is unsettled and on edge.
“We’ve gone two days without sleeping ... we’re very tired,” said Alawad.
He said he is thankful that no one was injured in the blaze, and for the friend who took him in.
“You will find bad people and good people everywhere,” he said. “I thank God that my family is safe.”
Two firefighters who sustained minor injuries were treated at hospital and released. No other injuries were reported.
Syrian refugees left homeless after fire destroys Mississauga home
LEAMINGTON, ONT.—On Friday evening, in the heart of this farming city, the workers arrive by bicycle and private bus.
Hundreds of labourers crowd the sidewalks, restaurants and shops on this municipality 50 kilometres southeast of Windsor, famous for its greenhouses and tomatoes.
It’s payday and at almost every turn the old city core is alive with bodies and chatter.
But these farm labourers are speaking Spanish and Patois.
Like many of Ontario’s downtowns, Leamington’s has seen better days. But the thousands of low-wage temporary farm workers from Mexico and the Caribbean, the work they provide and the money they spend here — Mayor John Paterson figures $15 million a year — has transformed the local economy.
Where Theresa’s Fashion once was is now Chica Linda, catering to workers looking to buy clothes to send home to family. Across the road, Mr. 2 Pizzas is now Crazy Chicken, where the menu is available in Spanish and features a cartoon sombrero-wearing bird rocking maracas, its fridge stocked with bottles of Mexican Jarritos soft drinks. Gino’s Restaurant and Wine Bar next door is now La Hacienda, a Mexican restaurant. Clubs offer salsa music and buckets of Corona and Caribbean vibe.
For the unfamiliar, it is jaw-dropping to behold. Yet transformation, like any change, can be simultaneously embraced, tolerated and loathed.
While these migrant workers and their effects on the community are particularly obvious in Leamington, the racial tension between them and the locals is far from unique in a rural Canada increasingly reliant on the labour provided by the migrant worker program.
This is the story of one migrant worker town and how people are learning to get along. Mostly.
Dubbed the “Greenhouse Capital of North America,” Leamington is located on the 42nd parallel — the same latitude as northern California — and draws its agricultural strength from the amount of sunshine it gets and the fertile soil it’s blessed with.
Everyday, some 200 tractor-trailers leave this municipality to deliver fresh produce — from its famous tomatoes to peppers, cucumbers, mushrooms and flowers — to destinations around the world.
Initially called Gainesville, the community was built by immigrants: first, the Scottish, German and Dutch, followed in the postwar era by Italians, Portuguese and Lebanese.
A shortage of labour has always been an issue for Leamington, as far back as Paterson, 63, who was born and grew up here, can remember.
But what distinguishes the earlier waves of migrants from those coming now is that the former came as permanent residents, while the majority nowadays are guest workers — mostly lonely men separated from their families, with temporary status only.
More than 10 per cent of the 54,000 average migrant farm workers to Canada work in Leamington, accounting for one-sixth of the town’s population during the farming season.
The number of migrant farm workers in Leamington has surged in the last decade, mostly because of the exponential growth of the greenhouse operations here. Today, the town has more than 1,500 acres of greenhouses, with another 200 acres waiting for municipal approvals.
South of Hwy. 401, along Hwy. 77 are row after row of greenhouses, with new ones under construction. With a $60 million gas line completed earlier this year, the town hopes to finish its $80 million hydro line next June, along with a $7 million water system and a $40 million sewage system in order to meet the needs of more greenhouses in the next five years. Medical cannabis production companies are knocking on its doors.
Everywhere you go, you see hiring signs for general labour, pickers and packing staff at greenhouses. The jobs promise a minimum 48 hours of work a week.
“We don’t have enough people in Ontario that are willing to do that kind of labour or those kind of hours for that kind of pay,” said Paterson.
“I don’t think the greenhouse industry would exist if it wasn’t for the farm worker program. There just wouldn’t be the manpower to make it happen. The program is of ultimate importance.”
Leamington’s small businesses suffered from the price wars with the local Walmart when it opened in 1999 and were dealt another blow in 2008 during the economic meltdown when residents lost their auto manufacturing jobs at Windsor and Detroit and were forced to live on shoestring budgets.
Then Heinz, the town’s biggest employer, shut its processing plant in 2014, throwing more than 700 out of work. A reboot of the plant under new owners softened the blow, although its workers make less money.
Downtown shops sputtered, and then shuttered.
“You need to repair your shoes, and you could go to Walmart and get a new pair for $10,” said Sam Najim, whose family came from Lebanon decades ago, as Caribbean migrant patrons streamed into his Crazy Moe’s Café Bar on a recent Saturday night.
Farms were able to continue to operate because of migrant workers’ labour, allowing locals to keep their higher-class jobs in management, sale and procurements, he said.
“Everybody benefits. They work hard and we need to give them the respect,” said Najim, 29, whose girlfriend is Mexican, as music blasted out on an otherwise quiet street with few passersby. “We are a small Toronto. We are a melting pot.”
Which sometimes bubbles over.
In Leamington, locals avoid shopping on Wednesdays and Fridays, pay days for the workers, and Sundays, when workers get time off and crowd stores.
People “congregating” in public spaces has made some people, unused to seeing such a thing, jittery. Hot issues at city hall include loitering and what to do about all the bicycles in a place with no transit, no bike lanes and few bike racks.
The inability to build bunkhouses fast enough to meet the growing numbers of workers means some are housed in residential areas, turning old homes into, essentially, rooming houses.
Add to that the temporary nature of the workers — nearly all are unable to ever become permanent residents — and the fact that all of them are racialized, mostly male, from unfamiliar cultures and away from their families for long stretches of time.
“You take your regular population of about 30,000 and add in 5,000 to 7,000 of temporary residents. You have your language barriers,” said Paterson. “You have your cultural barriers, and even space barriers that create challenges for all of us to deal with.”
The mayor himself has weathered controversies over comments he’s made about multiculturalism and the behaviour of what he believed to be Jamaican migrant workers who, in 2013, made “lewd” comments to his daughter “in reference to her body parts.” He told a police board meeting back then that some Jamaican workers were making inappropriate comments to women in general.
In response, Justicia for Migrant Workers sent a sharply worded open letter to the mayor, saying “the open hostility that your council has shown towards migrant workers represents the most blatant displays of anti-migrant sentiments we have ever witnessed.”
The group said his “remarks pertaining to ‘lewd behaviour’ of migrant workers cannot be taken in good faith. Instead of dealing with sexual harassment on an individual basis, you skip right to racialized stereotypes; drawing from some of the worst parts of Canadian history.”
The advocacy group cited worker complaints that racism and sexism continue to be part of their daily lives in Leamington. “It does not escape us,” the letter read, “that the community of Leamington once supported ‘sundown laws’ which made it illegal for Black Canadians to walk freely in the community after sunset.”
Jamaica, a beneficiary of worker remittances, flew in government officials to do damage control, according to media reports in late 2013. “They’ve assured us they will do and want to do anything to help us,” Paterson was quoted as saying at the time by the Windsor Star.
Federal temporary foreign worker data shows the number of positions approved for Jamaican workers has declined from 12,034 in 2013, to 9,929 in 2016, while, overall, the demand for farm workers has increased.
Some in Leamington say they’ve noticed fewer Jamaican workers in recent years, and more Mexicans, reflecting a national trend. Mexico is the number one source country for migrant workers.
On a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon, steps away from a giant tomato where Leamington tourism staff disseminate brochures and free national park passes, Chris Ramsaroop passes out flyers to migrant workers to educate them about their workers’ rights in Canada.
Ramsaroop has been doing advocacy work in Leamington for Justicia for Migrant Workers for more than a decade and says interactions between locals and migrants here are based on stereotypes and discrimination.
“The only thing they want are their hands and their bodies to make a profit,” said Ramsaroop.
The latest battleground, says Ramsaroop, is over loitering.
Paterson, the mayor, says the community had to deal with cultural tensions with earlier waves of immigrants, who were primarily Europeans.
“Their culture was to gather on the streets and stand around and occupy space and talk and socialize. Eventually they melted into the community. We all assimilated, for the lack of a better word. That issue just dissipated,” he said.
“Now, with the temporary agricultural workers that are here, that is more different. They don’t really have homes to go back to. They have bunkhouses and rooming areas to go to once they have done their socializing. That’s what the current problem is. People see the number of them congregating. Some people get nervous.”
Locals who spoke to the Star shared observations and comments similar to the mayor’s.
Leon Ferguson, a worker from Jamaica, said pay days and weekends are the only time the farm workers get a relief from their backbreaking jobs.
“The bunkers are very boring. There are too many guys in the bunkers, and no entertainment. It is where you sleep,” said the 40-year-old, who joined the government’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) in 2015.
“Guys need to go to town, clubbing or have a beer. That’s why we work so hard. They need to socialize with other people. Some of these guys have been here eight, 10 and 14 years. They don’t socialize, just work. They need to know what Canada is about.”
Dave Bretzlaff, a pastor at the South Point Community Church just outside downtown Leamington, has noticed the cultural disconnect between Canadians and the workers. That’s why he and his congregation try to build bridges with the migrant community through their services and social events such as a recent barbecue.
He said a lot of people in Leamington may not appreciate how hard life is for migrant workers being away from their families and living in isolation in rural Canada, especially among those who don’t speak English.
“We need to find a way to empower them while they are here,” said Bretzlaff. “If you keep uprooting, nothing is going to grow in a healthy way.”
Joan Golding, a member of the congregation and a Jamaican-Canadian, founded a support group for Caribbean workers called Unity Hopeful, which provides clothing and information on Canadian culture. She organizes feasts and celebrations around Jamaican Independence Day.
“They’re coming into a country where they don’t know anyone, they’re very lonely, in many ways,” said Golding, after prepping a meal of jerk chicken and rice for workers on a farm outside Leamington. “We just put this program on to make them feel at home away from home, just to let them know that we do care that they’re here to do this job.”
She says some people are accepting of the workers, and some aren’t.
“These workers come here and they work hard, extremely hard,” said Golding. “And we should be there for them to support them in whatever way we can because the work they are doing, a lot of us don’t want to do it.”
It’s dusk on a Friday evening in August in downtown Leamington, and people, mostly migrant workers, are walking — and talking — freely.
Set up at the corner of Talbot and Erie Sts. are preachers and missionaries, including Sebastian Aguirre, 34, a Jehovah’s Witness from Windsor who also works in Leamington for Abell Pest Control, checking migrant worker bunkhouses and greenhouses for any signs of vermin and pests. He also works closely with a locally-based Mexican Consulate, which hands out awards to top greenhouse employers.
Originally from Argentina and fluent in Spanish, Aguirre moved to the area a year and a half ago with his wife, after spending most of his life in Toronto. What he saw in Leamington was a pleasant surprise, but difficult to describe.
“It’s a very weird place,” he said. “I thought I was back at home (in Argentina). I can speak Spanish, order food in Spanish. I never thought this place existed in Ontario. I feel like I’m in Latin America, to be honest with you.”
Aguirre said he sees little interaction between locals and the workers, but “I feel there’s a sense of gratitude because they’re here, because, realistically, the Canadian culture, they won’t do this kind of work.”
When workers open up to him, he hears of the difficulties of being away from family. “When I go into bunkhouses, you can just see a room plastered with pictures of their family,” he said. “Some are here for three months and they find it so hard to be away from the family that they actually cut the contract and they go back home.”
Another problem, he says, is that there’s very little for the workers to do in Leamington, aside from a small movie theatre and a bowling alley, which requires a car to get to. Unwinding downtown, or “congregating” as some see it, is only natural, says Aguirre.
“If you look at the conditions these people work in, they’re in the greenhouses for 16 hours and add to the working conditions — the heat — it’s pretty tough,” said Aguirre. “So when I see them here, it’s kind of like their time to detox, have a taco and just chill with the guys.”
At El Aguila (“The Eagle”), a convenience store, the shelves are filled with imported food and spices from Latin America including La Morena brand mayonnaise with lime and chipotle, tough to find elsewhere.
“The workers miss their food at home,” said owner Efrain Sanchez, who first came to Leamington 17 years ago from Mexico under the SAWP. He opened the store in 2015 after he was promoted by his employer to management and became one of a few migrant farm workers who qualified to apply for permanent residence.
Like other ethnic businesses, El Aguila offers money transfer services and is jammed on pay days by workers sending money to their families back home.
“Winter is quiet when all the workers go home. We have very few Canadian customers here,” said Sanchez.
Vicki Bowden, one of the few Leamington natives strolling downtown one Saturday afternoon, says there was a time when some locals would cross the road to avoid walking past ethnic stores because they felt intimidated by the migrants gathering on the street. Now, those same locals are shopping in those stores, she said.
“This is the norm now. The odd man out is the blue-eyed, blond-hair boy. You get along or be miserable,” said Bowden, who works as a supervisor at a local farm and sometimes offers English classes to her migrant colleagues at her home.
She said there were serious problems when the migrant workers first started coming and “there’s a really, really long way to go, but it’s been a big change, which is nice …
“There still needs to be more acceptance of each other,” said Bowden, because the workers are vital. “Without them, Leamington would be a ghost town. That is what’s keeping this town going.”
At Gaspard’s Café, near the Pelee Island ferry terminal, Joe Gaspard, who opened the café in the 1970s, is a picture postcard of what built Canada.
Born in Beirut, Gaspard had an uncle who spent $10,000 to sponsor him to come to Leamington in 1948. He was 17, and worked first on farms and then as a butcher before finding jobs at the Chrysler and Ford plants.
“People back home said you could make money so fast in Canada that you could get rich overnight,” said the soft-spoken 86-year-old, leaning on a table at the café.
Of course, the reality was somewhat different. Life wasn’t easy at the beginning because of a language barrier. But jobs were plentiful.
Now retired, Gaspard lives above the restaurant, which is run by his four daughters, with the occasional help from his grandchildren.
In Leamington, there are jobs everywhere, he says. “If you want to work, and work hard, you can make money.”
But when it comes to the farms and greenhouse, he said, “migrant workers get the work done.”
Living in Leamington
Population: 32,991Land area: 31.7 sq. kmPeople from 15 to 64 years: 20,200 or 61.2%People over 65: 7,195 or 21.8%Average age of population: 42.9Total visible minority population: 10.3%Latin American: 4.9%Arab: 2.1%Southeast Asian: 1%Black: 0.9%White: 88.6%Source: 2016 Canada Census
Leamington is at the frontlines of the boom in migrant workers. Here’s how it’s changedLeamington is at the frontlines of the boom in migrant workers. Here’s how it’s changedLeamington is at the frontlines of the boom in migrant workers. Here’s how it’s changedLeamington is at the frontlines of the boom in migrant workers. Here’s how it’s changed
TOKYO—Kim Jong Un has taken another key step to consolidate his family’s control over North Korea, elevating his younger sister to the powerful political bureau of the ruling Workers’ Party and moving her closer to the centre of the leadership.
Kim announced that his 30-year-old sister, Kim Yo Jong, had been promoted during a weekend of festivities celebrating the Kim family’s grip on the totalitarian state and amid expectations of a new salvo of missiles.
The North Korean regime will on Tuesday celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party, through which the Kim family controls the country.
A top Korea analyst at the CIA last week said that the U.S. government should be ready for another North Korean provocation this week — not least because the Oct. 10 anniversary overlaps with Columbus Day in the United States, given the 12-hour, 30-minute time difference between Pyongyang and Washington. This would provide North Korea with the opportunity to both celebrate an important day on its calendar and interfere with an American holiday weekend.
“Stand by your phones,” Yong Suk Lee, deputy assistant director of the CIA’s Korea Mission Center, said he had told his staff. He was speaking at a conference in Washington last week.
However, there were expectations that North Korea would do something incendiary on the same date last year, when the day passed without a bang.
U.S. President Donald Trump sent his own warning signal Saturday, saying in a tweet that years of diplomatic negotiations and agreements with North Korea had come to nothing and that “only one thing will work.” He did not say what that “one thing” was.
But in Pyongyang on Saturday, Kim was telling his officials that North Korea’s nuclear weapons were a “powerful deterrent” and that the Workers’ Party of Korea would “victoriously conclude the standoff with the U.S.”
North Korea’s nuclear weapons are necessary “for defending the destiny and sovereignty of the country from the protracted nuclear threats of the U.S. imperialists,” Kim, who is chairperson of the party among many other titles, told the party’s central committee at a meeting, according to state media reports published Sunday.
A weekend of celebrations included a parade celebrating 20 years since Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s father, was elected general secretary of the Workers’ Party. Kim Jong Un also visited the mausoleum where his father and grandfather, “eternal president” Kim Il Sung, lie in state.
These events would seem like standard behaviour in North Korea’s personality cult if it weren’t for the appointment of Kim Yo Jong as an alternate member of the main political branch of the Workers’ Party.
The Rodong Sinmun, the party newspaper, showed photos of those who had been promoted at the meeting: eight men in their 60s or older, and Kim Yo Jong, the only woman and the only person not approaching pensionable age. She is thought to have been born in 1987.
She is taking the place of their aunt, Kim Jong Il’s sister Kim Kyong Hui, who has not been seen in public since Kim Jong Un had her husband, Jang Song Thaek, executed in 2013. Intelligence analysts believe she is still alive but very sick and no longer involved in the leadership.
Analysts saw the sister’s elevation as the latest sign that Kim Jong Un is trying to boost her standing in the regime. The Kim family claims its legitimacy through the “Paektu bloodline” — the idea that their family has been destined, by a sacred Korean mountain, to lead the country.
Kim Jong Un, who is 33, has played up the bloodline angle as he has sought to cement his claim to be his father’s rightful successor. But it is not clear who would succeed Kim Jong Un if he were to die suddenly.
He is thought to have two or three children, at least one of whom is a boy, but they are all younger than 6 years old. Michael Madden, an expert on the Kim family who runs the North Korea Leadership Watch blog, thinks that Kim Jong Un might be positioning his sister as the next heir to the family dynasty.
Kim Yo Jong was involved in ensuring the succession process from her father to her brother and has taken on increasingly prominent roles over the past few years. In 2014, she was made deputy director of the Workers’ Party Propaganda and Agitation Department — a position that led the Treasury Department to sanction her by name in January for her role in censoring information in North Korea.
The role is not just symbolic. She was seen working during a big parade in Pyongyang in April, rushing out from behind pillars to bring paperwork to her brother. She also appeared on stage with him during the opening of a landmark construction project in the capital, Ryomyong Street, where she was dressed in a functional black suit and appeared to be co-ordinating photographers and other logistics.
“Kim Yo Jong is very influential,” said Lim Jae-Cheon, a Kim family expert at Korea University in Seoul. “She is doing her job in the propaganda department, but I don’t think she’s involved in other areas.”
Lim does not think she is seen as a potential successor in highly Confucian — hierarchical and male-dominated — North Korea. “She can’t be leader. She’s a female,” he said.
As with many other figures in North Korea’s opaque leadership, little else is known about Kim Yo Jong. Some South Korean and Japanese newspapers have reported that she’s married to a senior finance official and that they have at least one child. Another report has it that she fell in love with a bodyguard. And another says she’s single and childless.
Regardless, she is clearly close to her brother. The two, together with oldest brother Kim Jong Chul, are full-blood siblings, the children of Kim Jong Il and his second wife, Ko Yong Hui. They all went to school in Switzerland in the 1990s.
Among the other personnel changes this weekend, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho — the man who called Trump “mentally deranged” when he visited New York for the U.N. General Assembly last month and threatened to detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific — was promoted from being an alternate to a full member of the Politburo.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un promotes sister to ruling Workers’ Party bureau
WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump demanded that Congress deliver funding for his border wall and make dramatic changes to immigration policy in exchange for letting young people brought illegally to the U.S. as children stay in the country.
The administration’s proposal, outlined in a briefing by U.S. officials and sent to lawmakers on Sunday night, was swiftly rejected by top Democrats in Congress, who charged that the president had reneged on an agreement last month to allow about 800,000 so-called Dreamers to remain in the U.S.
Trump’s plan calls for fully funding his proposed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, money to hire thousands of additional immigration agents and revamping the asylum system. Its principles are meant as the framework for a legislative reworking of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that Trump terminated in September with a six-month sunset to allow for congressional action.
“These findings outline reforms that must be included as part of any legislation addressing the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients,” Trump said in a letter to Congressional leaders. “Without these reforms, illegal immigration and chain migration, which severely and unfairly burden American workers and taxpayers, will continue without end.”
Administration officials who briefed reporters on Sunday night described Trump’s principles — including an end to so-called chain migration, in which permanent residents and citizens can sponsor relatives for entry to the U.S. — as neither a veto threat against a DACA bill lacking the provisions nor an opening bid.
The move threatens to blow up prospects for a deal on immigration at a time when any policy change would require 60 votes in the Senate, where Republicans hold just 52 seats.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dined with Trump last month and said afterward that they had reached a tentative accord with the president to advance legislation to replace DACA and protect from deportation undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. On Sunday, the Democrats responded swiftly to Trump’s proposal.
“We told the president at our meeting that we were open to reasonable border security measures alongside the DREAM Act, but this list goes so far beyond what is reasonable,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a statement. “This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise.”
One of the administration officials who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity said Congress should include all of the provisions in legislation that codifies DACA, but declined to say if Trump would accept a bill that includes only some. The official declined to say which proposals were most critical, only asserting that the various policies worked in tandem.
White House legislative director Marc Short said a review of U.S. immigration laws ordered by Trump identified shortcomings in three major areas: the ability to promptly remove undocumented immigrants at the border; the enforcement of immigration standards inside the U.S., including visa overstays; and ending chain migration, which he described as unfair to taxpayers and citizens.
“The agencies’ bottom-up review identified several legislative priorities to fix these problems and modernize our immigration system,” Short said. “That includes fully funding and completing construction of the border wall and closing legal loopholes that prevent removals and swell the court backlog.”
The White House also outlined policies that would dramatically change the legal immigration system, including reducing the number of people allowed to settle in the U.S. each year. That’s expected to be part of the conversation with members of Congress, the officials said.
Trump met last week with a small group of conservative Republican lawmakers to discuss DACA legislation.
Some participants in the meeting, including Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, said Trump was willing to alter the agreement with Pelosi and Schumer by including changes to the legal immigration system. Perdue and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who also participated in the White House meeting, have written legislation to revamp U.S. immigration priorities and create what they call a “merit-based” system that would move away from chain migration and halve legal immigration over a decade.
The bill has attracted no other cosponsors, and its principles are opposed not only by Democrats but also many Republicans. But the two senators have sympathizers among Trump’s aides, and possibly in the president himself, for whom immigration was a major campaign issue.
Trump demands border wall funds, immigration changes
Mark Bittman is a big deal in the food world — he’s the filet mignon of food writers and thinkers in North America. He’s published thousands of recipes in the New York Times and is bestselling author of 20 books on food and cookbooks, including How to Cook Everything, which won all kinds of awards, including the Julia Child general cookbook award.
Bittman will be in Toronto Wednesday for a conversation about the “pleasure and politics of food” hosted by Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC), which was founded in 2012 to push for the development of community food centres nationwide.
He spoke with the Toronto Star about what’s top of mind as he prepares to cross the border — including the benefits of banning children under the age of 16 from buying soda and why you should be able to find carrots at the post office.
Why can what we put on our plates be considered political?
Food is a part of everything and everything relates to food. If you want to talk about how food can be political, you need look no further than the link between chronic disease and income.
How much of a role should governments play in responsible food policy and how much of it should be individual responsibility?
It’s got to be both, but not every individual can change the way they eat. We know that, especially when you’ve created an environment that encourages the consumption of terrible food, or “non food,” all the time, we need the government to step in and do some regulation.
What about kids, junk food and legislation?
I think you there should be a soda tax. It should be national and I think children should have to show ID to purchase soda without a parent. The drinking age for that soda should be 18, but 16 would be a not horrible compromise. You can’t have 8-year-olds buying soda without their parents knowing they’re doing it. It’s almost the equivalent of letting kids smoke.
You’ve been in the world of food policy and food development for a long time. What gives you hope for the future?
I am excited about the passage of a soda tax, first in Berkeley and then in five other jurisdictions in the U.S., Mexico and elsewhere. That’s a good start.
I am excited when food people talk about rights for labourers because I think it has been ignored for all too long. The role that farm workers and retail workers and fast-food workers, (and) restaurant workers have in bringing the rest of us food and by doing so at super low wages, the lowest wages of anyone in the United States at least. Eight out of the 10 worst-paying jobs are held by food-service people. By allowing those people to work for such pathetic wages, we are encouraging the deflationary spiral of food costs.
Food needs to be more expensive, it needs to be of higher quality and the people who bring it to us need to be paid more money.
If we raise the cost of food, how do we get it into the hands of the lowest income earners or people that don’t earn income?
I think we need to discourage the consumption of non-food or bad food, whatever you want to call junk food, and encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables. You do that by taxing the former and literally subsidizing the latter. If you have the intent of doing this, if you have a government that’s willing to do this, it’s not that hard to figure out how to get fruits and vegetables distributed widely in places where people of lower income or lower means live, or even everywhere.
We have libraries, we have post offices, both of which are underutilized compared to how they used to be. We have elementary schools, we have community colleges, we have public buildings everywhere. If those places were to be distribution centres for fruits and vegetables and other parts of a good diet, then people would be able to get them.
It’s all about intent. Is it within the means of the United States to put Puerto Rico back on its feet within weeks instead of months or years? Yes it is. It’s a question of political intent. Is it within our means to make sure that our citizens eat well? It’s a question of intent.
Your first question was what’s the intersection between food and politics? It’s the bottom line of all of these questions. Can we get young farmers on the land to grow better food? Yes we can. We need to want to do that as a society.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Renowned recipe writer Mark Bittman: Drinking pop is 'almost the equivalent of letting kids smoke'
ARLINGTON, TEXAS—Dallas owner Jerry Jones said the NFL can’t leave the impression it tolerates players disrespecting the flag and any Cowboys making such displays won’t play.
Jones had his strongest comments so far on the national anthem controversy Sunday night. They started with his response to a question about U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence leaving the game in Indianapolis after about a dozen San Francisco players knelt during the anthem.
“I know this, we cannot . . . in the NFL in any way give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag,” said Jones, also the team’s general manager, after a 35-31 loss to Green Bay.
“We know that there is a serious debate in this country about those issues, but there is no question in my mind that the National Football League and the Dallas Cowboys are going to stand up for the flag. So we’re clear.”
The Cowboys and Jones knelt arm-in-arm before the anthem when they played at Arizona two weeks ago, a few days after U.S. President Donald Trump criticized NFL players for anthem protests. All of them stood during the anthem, with arms still locked.
Mostly Dallas players have stood on the sideline, many with hands over their hearts, during the anthem since former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling last season in protest of police treatment of African-Americans.
Jones said he wasn’t aware of whether any of his players had raised a fist at the end of the anthem before the Green Bay game.
“I don’t know about that,” said Jones, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August. “But if there’s anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play. OK? Understand? If we are disrespecting the flag, then we won’t play. Period.”
The 74-year-old Jones said showing respect for the flag and the anthem is more important to him than any potential issues of team unity.
“There is no room here if it comes between looking non-supportive of our players and of each other or creating the impression that you’re disrespecting the flag, we will be non-supportive of each other,” Jones said. “We will not disrespect the flag.”
Jones said a phone conversation with Trump after the display in Arizona included Trump telling him there was a rule on the books.
The NFL has said the game operations manual distributed to teams includes a reference to players standing for the anthem, but that it’s a policy and not a rule. The league has said it doesn’t plan to punish players over anthem protests.
“The league in mind should absolutely take the rules we’ve got on the books and make sure that we do not give the perception that we’re disrespecting the flag,” Jones said.
Dallas Cowboys owner says players won’t play if they are ‘disrespectful’ to U.S. flag
SAN FRANCISCO — Google for the first time has uncovered evidence that Russian operatives exploited the company’s platforms in an attempt to interfere in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the company’s investigation.
The Silicon Valley giant has found that tens of thousands of dollars were spent on ads by Russian agents who aimed to spread disinformation across Google’s many products, which include YouTube, as well as advertising associated with Google search, Gmail, and the company’s DoubleClick ad network, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that have not been made public. Google runs the world’s largest online advertising business, and YouTube is the world’s largest online video site.
The discovery by Google is also significant because the ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated troll farm that bought ads on Facebook — a sign that the Russian effort to spread disinformation online may be a much broader problem than Silicon Valley companies have unearthed so far.
Google previously downplayed the problem of Russian meddling on its platforms. Last month, Google spokeswoman Andrea Faville told The Washington Post that the company is “always monitoring for abuse or violations of our policies and we’ve seen no evidence this type of ad campaign was run on our platforms.”
Nevertheless, Google launched an investigation into the matter, as Congress pressed technology companies to determine how Russian operatives used social media, online advertising, and other digital tools to influence the 2016 presidential contest and foment discord in U.S. society.
Google declined to provide a comment for this story. The people familiar with its investigation said that the company is looking at a set of ads that cost less than $100,000 and that it is still sorting out whether all of the ads came from trolls or whether some originated from legitimate Russian accounts.
To date, Google has mostly avoided the scrutiny that has fallen on its rival Facebook. The social network recently shared about 3,000 Russian-bought ads with congressional investigators that were purchased by operatives associated with the internet Research Agency, a Russian-government affiliated troll farm, the company has said.
Some of the ads, which cost a total of about $100,000, touted Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and the Green party candidate Jill Stein during the campaign, people familiar with those ads said. Other ads appear to have been aimed at fostering division in the United States by promoting anti-immigrant sentiment and racial animosity. Facebook has said those ads reached just 10 million of the 210 million U.S. users that log onto the service each month.
At least one outside researcher has said that the influence of Russian disinformation on Facebook is much greater than the company has so far acknowledged and encompasses paid ads as well as posts published on Facebook pages controlled by Russian agents. The posts were shared hundreds of millions of times, said Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.
In a blog post, Facebook wrote it is also looking at an additional 2,200 ads that may have not come from the internet Research Agency.
“We also looked for ads that might have originated in Russia — even those with very weak signals of a connection and not associated with any known organized effort,” the company wrote last month. “This was a broad search, including, for instance, ads bought from accounts with US IP addresses but with the language set to Russian — even though they didn’t necessarily violate any policy or law. In this part of our review, we found approximately $50,000 in potentially politically related ad spending on roughly 2,200 ads.”
Meanwhile, Twitter said that it shut down 201 accounts associated with the internet Research Agency. It also disclosed that the account for the news site RT, which the company linked to the Kremlin, spent $274,100 on its platform in 2016. Twitter has not said how many times the Russian disinformation was shared. The company is investigating that matter and trying to map the relationship between Russian accounts and well-known media personalities as well as influencers associated with the campaigns of Donald Trump and other candidates, said a person familiar with Twitter’s internal investigation. RT also has a sizable presence on YouTube.
Twitter declined to comment for this story.
Executives for Facebook and Twitter will testify before congressional investigators on Nov. 1. Google has not said whether it will accept a similar invitation to do so.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened in the U.S. election to help Donald Trump win. But Silicon Valley companies have received little assistance from the intelligence community, people familiar with the companies’ probes said.
Google discovered the Russian presence on its platforms by siphoning data from another technology company, Twitter, the people familiar with Google’s investigation said. Twitter offers outsiders the ability to access a small amount of historical tweets for free, and charges developers for access to the entire Twitter firehose of data stemming back to 2006.
Google downloaded the data from Twitter and was able to link Russian Twitter accounts to other accounts that had used Google’s services to buy ads, the people said. This was done without the explicit co-operation of Twitter, the people said.
Google’s probe is still in its early stages, the people said. The number of ads posted and the number of times those ads were clicked on could not be learned. Google is continuing to examine its own records and is also sharing data with Facebook. Twitter and Google have not cooperated with one another in their investigations.
Google uncovers Russian-bought ads on YouTube, Gmail, other platforms
Two Toronto men who surrendered to police on Sunday night have been charged with first-degree murder in the death of 29-year-old Abdulkadir Bihi.
Yahya Abdirahman Jama, 20, turned himself in at around 6 p.m. on Sunday, according to the Toronto Police Service. Zayd Q. Chaudhry, 19, surrendered about three hours later.
Toronto Police Det. Steve Henkel had previously told reporters that the two men “are considered to be armed and dangerous.”
Bihi was found inside a car that had crashed near Dixon Rd. and Islington Ave. W. in Etobicoke just before 3 p.m. on Thursday. He’d been shot several times.
Paramedics rushed him to hospital in critical condition, but he was pronounced dead upon arrival.
With files from Annie Arnone
Two murder suspects in Etobicoke shooting turn themselves in
OTTAWA—Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has been under pressure to rein in runaway home prices, but a study by the national housing agency suggests the prime minister will struggle to exert control over the real estate market in Canada’s largest city.
Conventional economic factors including population, incomes and borrowing costs accounted for less than half of the 40-per-cent surge in Toronto home prices between 2010 and 2016, according to a Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp. (CMHC) study obtained by Bloomberg through a freedom of information request.
Supply constraints, and to a lesser extent speculation and investment, accounted for most of the rest of the gains, although a lack of high-quality data about the availability of land made firm conclusions hard to draw.
The report details the “puzzling” dynamics of the Toronto market and suggests factors other than demand are driving prices higher, leaving Trudeau few options to ease the affordability crisis. It may also mean more needs to be done to promote supply and curb speculation, issues more readily dealt with at the municipal level.
“While price increases in Vancouver have largely been supported by economic fundamentals, a more puzzling result points to the state of the Toronto market, where fundamentals haven’t been as strong,” CMHC analysts said in the 134-page study prepared for Families Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.
Duclos commissioned the review in June 2016 and has sought further updates for a final version expected soon that will help shape a new national housing strategy, his spokesperson Mathieu Filion said by email. “This is an important report as Minister Duclos has said on many occasions that we are missing important data on housing and all good policies need to be developed with valid data,” Filion said.
Trudeau, who has repeatedly pointed to an affordability crisis in Toronto and Vancouver, gave Duclos marching orders to look into how to fix the problem. The minister’s role will include “undertaking a review of escalating home prices in high-priced housing markets and considering all policy tools that could keep home ownership within reach for more Canadians,” according to Duclos’ mandate letter from the prime minister.
The report backs up Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz’s view that interest rates aren’t the best tool for dealing with potential housing bubbles. CMHC found about three-quarters of Vancouver’s price gains were tied to fundamentals, versus 40 per cent in Toronto, suggesting the latter city is an isolated trouble spot, another argument against using monetary policy, which has widespread effects, to bring prices down.
Wealth and income inequality are likely important drivers for the large price moves in higher-priced detached homes, the report said, because industries that cluster in big cities and offer high-paying jobs can feed the prices for the more expensive properties.
The supply side also offered important clues. The stock of housing in Toronto and Vancouver was much less responsive, or what economists call elastic, to rising prices, the report said. “Supply challenges including land supply and zoning regulation emerge as factors that contribute particularly to high priced markets.’’
There are also few signs that builders are in a genuine struggle to keep pace with rising demand, which would typically lead to a surge in provincial construction wage rates.
Another possible driver of rising single-family home prices may be that geographical constraints have driven up land prices, encouraging builders to switch development to higher-density options such as condominiums.
CMHC cautioned against making firm conclusions in some of these areas because of a lack of reliable data around trends such as foreign ownership. Most of the report’s conclusions and recommendations were redacted under provisions in the access to information law that exempts advice to ministers. However, the end result is that governments are left with uncomfortable choices, the agency found.
The early draft sent to Duclos in December was released for an academic peer review that’s still underway, CMHC spokesperson Jonathan Rotondo said by phone. The Ottawa-based agency insured $496 billion of residential loans as of June 30.
Toronto home prices are already declining by the most since 2000 after the provincial government introduced a foreign buyer tax in April. Benchmark prices are down 8 per cent since May. Even with that slide, they’ve doubled since 2009.
The International Monetary Fund and UBS Group AG, among others, have warned about the risks posed by Toronto’s overvalued real estate market and the dangers of speculation.
“No one simple measure emerges as an obvious candidate for addressing the challenges posed by high-priced markets,” CMHC said in the report.
‘Puzzling’ Toronto real estate market could frustrate push for price fix, CMHC says